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How Can Relationship Differences Lead to Peace, not Anger or Resentment?

Heirloom tomatoesPHIL: In our book, individuality and acceptance have different chapters, but as we came to put together a course, we found that the two are so intertwined that we needed to put them together into a single session. So today I’d like to explore how the two are connected.

Coming to terms with the fact that your partner is different from you can be a challenge. It’s not just your partner but anyone. It’s fine when you agree, but when you don’t, how can anybody be so stupid? Obviously you have the right answer, know the correct route, stack the dishwasher properly, can see the couch is the wrong color, and know the best way to handle a tantrum in a supermarket. You’re right and everybody else is…less right.

But everyone is entitled to act in the world as they choose, and maybe there’s more than one approach to doing something, and maybe you never saw it before, and maybe they just like doing it that way. When you can relax into that and appreciate and enjoy those differences, you are expanding your view of what is possible and how to be in the world, and you can see that the two of you are more effective together than either one of you alone.

And just like that, you have taken the step from recognizing differences to accepting them. This step is momentous. It is transformative. You have stopped trying to control them. What a relief! And from their point of view, it is a tremendous relief too. They can act without the risk of being told they are wrong, without worrying about disappointing you, without having to seek your approval or permission.

When you’re in a relationship where your partner treats you this way as well, an extraordinary freedom arises. You have the freedom to be yourself, a rarity in this world. You can be yourself when alone, and you can be yourself in the presence of your partner. The result is a simultaneous experience of being separate and together. When there are no expectations or demands or restrictions on you, it can result in a closeness like no other.

MAUDE: Do you often ask yourself how you can create peace rather than feel anger or resentment when differences of opinion or behavior occur in your relationships? Many people find this a barrier to harmony and become victims of their own reactions.

We have found that there are two intertwined understandings that can shift potential problems to sources of joy and peace: they are individuality and acceptance.

Individuality involves both recognizing that we are each unique, and honoring and respecting this actuality. To truly do this, you must look at the differences in your actions and words without judgment or fear. Even when the underlying core values between you and the other match, this difference will remain.

The way this difference is perceived holds the key to peaceful interactions and it resides in coming from love not fear. If you see difference as a contradiction or a threat, you will respond defensively to protect yourself. You will fight the invading idea. In this very viewpoint lies the kernel of discord. When you think there is an attack, or that you are being criticized or rejected due to a difference in behavior or desires, you are making the assumption that it is about you.

The truth is they have nothing to do with you. They are there because we are all unique and we express the same values differently according to our own unique personality and experience.

Once you can absorb this truth you become free to react from love with no need to alter or change the other. You can instead use this ‘otherness’ for inspiration; as new ways to express the same values; to learn and grow.

This reframing from fear driven responses to those of love provides a rich field for acceptance, the mate to recognition of individuality . This kind of acceptance is an opening up, a giving of permission, a loving embrace of other. There is no pushing for your way or of who is right or wrong. Not only is there no sense of threat but there is in its place a sense of peace, comfort, expansion, growth, inspiration and freedom.

The twin sisters of recognition of individuality and acceptance of what that offers, are a true path of freedom from anger, resentment, defensiveness, separation and estrangement. They bring a shift in your very reality. You are catapulted into the present, into living with what is rather than your mental construct of what could or should be. And in this present is love and peace.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Heirloom tomatoes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week in our blog, we asked how can relationship differences lead to peace, not anger or resentment. Here are a variety of thoughts written on this subject.

How To Accept People’s Differences For A Happy Life "How can we tolerate and accept people’s differences especially during these trying times of COVID-19 and racial injustice? Moreover, during uncertain and stressful times, it seems more difficult to get along with others who are different from ourselves. Even though, everyone is unique and different we all share the basic needs to belong and connect with others."

Respecting Vs. Accepting Others’ Choices "There is a common idea that we judge others by their choices. But what happens when a loved one makes a choice we don’t agree with? You have your own choices, hopes, and goals for those you love. When they make a choice that doesn’t align with your own choices, it can sometimes feel impossible to accept. You might even have difficulty loving someone in the same way when they make a choice you don’t agree with. When you find you can’t accept a loved one’s choice, focus on respecting it instead. Distinguishing between acceptance and respect helps us to preserve our relationships, even when we disagree."

Empathy – Accept Others For Who They Are "Acceptance is the ability to see that others have a right to be their own unique persons. That means having a right to their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. When you accept people for who they are, you let go of your desire to change them. You let them feel the way they want to feel, you let them be different and think differently from you. Everyone is different in one way or another. Once you understand this truth, you can stop trying to change them into the people you want them to be and start accepting them for who they are."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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